A move that has long been debated by the Obama Administration could soon become reality, as officials say the State Department delivered an ultimatum to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari during his visit last week cautioning that if he doesn’t move against the Taliban forces in the city of Quetta the US will.
Such attacks would be a major escalation of the unpopular US drone strikes against the nation, so far confined to the area in and around the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Quetta, a city of three quarters of a million people, is the capital of Pakistan’s largest province, Balochistan.
The Pakistani government has been reluctant to move against the city, which has reportedly become a hiding point for much of the former Afghan government, citing both the lack of threat posed to the Pakistani government and the lack of intelligence provided by the US about exactly where to act.
In fact, the attack on Quetta may turn out to be even more than lobbing a few missiles, as reportedly officials have discussed sending ground forces into the town to “capture or kill” any Taliban they find.
Already struggling to keep the populace calm amid growing resentment of the US role in the nation, if American missiles or worse, American ground forces start pouring into a major Pakistani city to fight people who the government says aren’t posing a threat to Pakistan, all bets are likely off.
Vice President Joe Biden, among others, have been pressing for an escalation of drone strikes as a way of “stabilizing” Pakistan. It seems, however, that there are few things that would be more destabilizing than attacking Quetta.